Networks are the organizing principle of our social and organizational lives.

Networks are the organizing principle behind all living matter from the smallest atom to entire ecosystems. The core technology of our current age is the network, too – allowing digital information to spread, almost instantly, on a global scale.

graphic-ernstYet, most organizations still rely on old methods and a structure designed well over a hundred years ago – the hierarchy. While the hierarchy has proven resilient and effective in stable and predictable environments, it starts to fall apart in dynamic, rapidly changing environments. Barriers form around vertical, horizontal, stakeholder, demographic and geographic identities and interests – and impede performance, stifle innovation and prevent meaningful change.

As research from the Center for Creative Leadership (CCL) has shown, in a network, direction comes from free-flowing information inside and outside the organization. Alignment comes from real-time collaboration. And commitment comes from networks of people who are motivated by something larger than themselves.

This is a natural phenomenon – and it would feel normal if it wasn’t for the organizations we’ve built.

Over the past twenty years, I’ve had the unique opportunity to identify and create ways to counter the limits of hierarchy and silos and tackle difficult, interdependent challenges. On a global scale, I’ve seen communities, organizations and diverse stakeholders innovate, solve problems and transform the way they work and live. And yet, we are just at the beginning of understanding how to create organizations based on this most natural organizing principle.

Deploying Boundary Spanning Networks is the approach that I have helped to create to move our understanding and practice forward. It is both logical and intuitive, grounded in research and steeped in practice, and has worked with wildly different people, groups, businesses, industries and communities. The result is greater collective capability – beyond individual competency – to collaborate across boundaries in an effort to unleash knowledge, expertise and ideas.

Three steps anchor this approach: Discover the Network, Activate the Network, and Sustain the Network. Click on the boxes below to learn more.

Discover the Network
Makes invisible relationships that drive results, visible
Activate the Network
Reframes common barriers as places for opportunity and innovation
Sustain the Network
Builds new capabilities to change the way work, works
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